During the third period, a sold out KeyBank Center crowd started a good old fashioned wave -- and while I'm not a fan, I get why they did it. On Monday Buffalo Sabres fans had a lot to be happy about with the home team knocking off the Dallas Stars 4-1.
Five observations from Monday's win:
Oh hey Tyler Ennis
It took Tyler Ennis 19 seconds to have his presence felt.
What an absolute snipe….
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 16, 2017
Ennis has been sidelined for more than two months after undergoing groin surgery in November. Before getting hurt Ennis played in 12 games with a goal and an assist.
During that stretch, there was no denying that the 26-year-old struggled — but you have to wonder if he was playing with an injury. Before the season expectations for Ennis were high after a 2015-2016 season plagued with injuries but obviously, the injuries woes trickled into this season.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) January 16, 2017
His return provides a spark offensively and adds some much-needed depth to the Sabres lineup and that was very apparent on Monday. Pairing Ennis with Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo should help Ennis in his own end, which has been his bugaboo in the past.
Also, this was the most amazing thing that’s happened in the history of mankind.
Tyler Ennis breaking out some puck sorcery. Almost a goal! pic.twitter.com/8TpE7XiKN6
— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) January 16, 2017
And speaking of depth
How much better does the Sabres lineup look with a William Carrier — Cal O’Reilly —Matt Moulson fourth line?
I’m a big fan of a team having the ability to roll four lines and not pay the price offensively. The aforementioned trio isn’t an explosive offensive group but they are by no means incompetent.
In the first half of the year, it was easy to forget about the injuries or use them as an excuse. We’re now starting to see what the lineup was supposed to look like, at least in theory.
What power play struggles?
You know what’s the best way to spark a power play unit? Face-off against an abysmal penalty-kill unit and below average goaltender.
On Monday afternoon the Sabres took advantage of the Stars problems — converting on two of their three power plays with goals from Jake McCabe (we’ll get back to this) and Jack Eichel. Both the first and second unit showed some nice pressure and ability to cycle the puck, so at the very least it’s a step in the right direction.
Ask and you shall receive
Get this (I apologize to those of you who read Friday’s observations) before Monday the Sabres had four goals from defensemen this season. 41 NHL defensemen currently have more than four goals — so the entire Sabres defensive core was being outscored by 41 dudes.
That can’t happen.
But on Monday everything changed because A DEFENSEMEN SCORED A GOAL! It was like a scene out of a movie or any other NHL hockey game — Jake McCabe got the puck and his shot went into the net and the fans went wild.
Math tells us that the Sabres now have five goals from defenders (Ristolainen 3, Franson 1, McCabe 1) in 43 games. That’s still brutal and is something that will need to change for the Sabres moving forward. You can’t rely on defensemen to score every game — but every once in a while (like today) is surely a big help.
Keep it going
This is how 2017 has gone thus far
Pretty streaky if you ask me. Yes, there’s still plenty of games left to be played but the Sabres need to go on a run.
Tomorrow they have an opportunity to knock off the Toronto Maple Leafs, a rival who they happen to be chasing in the standings. If the Sabres have any chance of making the playoffs they’ll need to string together some wins ASAP.